If Coca-Cola is a sea of refreshment on a blazing day, Coca-Cola Scholars Weekend is a radiant infinity of rejuvenation. A collage of memories that I’ll treasure forever, Coke Scholars stands as the gem of my high school journey.

The colors and culture of the experience are “individually strong and collectively epic.” While scholars weekend was filled with huge splashes of talent — 150 students who were united paying it forward through passion — it was deep dive into the unique paths each one of us walked to get to Atlanta.

Too many goodbyes later, the paths are being carved. Only now, the paths intertwined forever.

“I think the best part about being a Coca-Cola Scholar is when you’ve had some life and work experience and you are a few years out of college,” said Kate Sullivan, former Coca-Cola Scholar and host/executive producer of the television show, “To Dine For.” “You can connect with other highly motivated, ambitious people and remind yourself who you were when everything seemed possible. Because it still is.”

Sullivan’s experience is not uncommon — Coca-Cola is an investment in the future rather than an award for the present. The Coke bottle follows you everywhere, spilling over rivers of interaction that turn to reservoirs of support.

Taking place April 4-7, from a heartwarming opening banquet featuring the stories of identity driving innovation to creating growing friendships through service at Hands on Atlanta, Coke Scholars weekend is authentic personified.

It is what Coca-Cola Chairman Muhtar Kent dubs “psychic income”, where the heart of energy lies in initiative. The application is a journey itself — it leaves you well organized for many college prompts, interviews and activity listings.

But there’s also the inexplicable lingering love of this perception-altering mission. Precious peek-a-boos of Coca-Cola sightings in vending machines. Donning the “momentum of many” T-shirt amid any challenging endeavor. Stumbling upon program alumni who are willing to uplift you in simple, powerful ways.

I’m so humbled and honored to be the first Coke Scholar from Dubuque — to dedicate this experience to the community that gave me a chance to grow as a writer, thinker, student and individual.

But, my greater hope — my ultimate wish above all — is that I’m not the last. This is just the beginning. I hope this initiative plants itself in the lives of next year’s rising high school seniors (this year’s juniors) in the Dubuque community. Each of us is a multidimensional canvas, waiting to be unleashed through the Coca-Cola Scholars program.

To learn more and apply to this refreshing opportunity, visit www.coca-colascholarsfoundation.org.

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